SINGAPORE: The Government will commit S$500 million to support aviation companies and workers in the coming financial year as air travel picks up, announced Transport Minister S Iswaran in Parliament on Wednesday (Mar 9).
Speaking at his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate, he said the OneAviation Resilience Package will help the sector to ramp up its capacity in managing increased traveller volumes, in order to rebuild and reclaim Singapore’s status as an international aviation hub.
"Changi’s air connectivity anchors the Singapore economy. ... To lose Changi’s connectivity, is to lose this key competitive advantage, and our livelihoods that depend on it," said Mr Iswaran.
"Fortunately, we are in a different situation today thanks to a better understanding of the virus, well-established safe management measures, and high levels of vaccination in our population. Hence, we have been able to take careful and calibrated steps to reopen our borders."
The OneAviation Resilience Package includes S$60 million to rebuild the sector's workforce, the Ministry of Transport (MOT) said in a separate press release.
Aviation companies will receive wage support via an extension of the Aviation Workforce Retention Grant for six months, covering 10 per cent of wages paid to local employees from April to September this year. A cap of S$4,600 of gross monthly wages per employee applies.
Another S$390 million will be set aside for cost relief and support for public health safeguards.
This includes extending rebates on fees payable by aviation companies at Changi Airport and Seletar Airport for six months. Further support will be given based on the extent of air travel recovery, MOT said.
The Government will also continue to defray the cost of implementing public health and safe management measures at the airport, which the ministry said will enable safe air travel, protect aviation workers and the wider community.
The remaining S$50 million will be set aside for the Aviation Development Fund to invest in longer-term industry and workforce transformation efforts. Examples include using technology to optimise airport operations and boost manpower productivity, as well as redesigning jobs to upskill workers.
"The aviation sector remains among the hardest hit sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic," MOT said.
While passenger traffic at Changi Airport has improved from 3 per cent at the beginning of 2021 to about 15 per cent of pre-COVID levels at the end of the year with the launch of the vaccinated travel lanes, it is still "significantly below" pre-pandemic levels, the ministry said.
As border restrictions globally are eased, additional funding for the aviation sector will ensure it has the capabilities and capacity to "capture the recovery", it added.
UPDATES TO TERMINAL 5
In 2020, the development of Changi Airport's Terminal 5 was put on pause due to the pandemic.
Over the last two years, the Government has used the opportunity to "review the T5 design in light of the pandemic experience and the heightened sustainability ambition", said Mr Iswaran.
"But there should be no doubt that we are firm in our resolve that Changi must have the capacity and the capability to seize opportunities that arise from aviation growth, especially in Asia."
More updates on the review will be provided when ready.